Richard Justice: Jalen Hurts did it the right way at Channelview, and that’s why so many are rooting so hard for him in Super Bowl LVII

Feb 6, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) speaks with media during Super Bowl Opening Night at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Justice: Jalen Hurts did it the right way at Channelview, and that’s why so many are rooting so hard for him in Super Bowl LVII

   Jalen Hurts’ dad has heard from them for a couple of weeks now, from coaching peers, former players, and others.

   Some of the conversations have been predictable. One coach remembered the time Jalen ran for five touchdowns and threw for four and put 70 points and 700 yards on the board.

   “I think they only put 50 on us,” said Jowell Hancock, formerly head coach at Dayton High School.

   Another, Kenny Harrison, formerly head coach at Port Arthur Memorial remembered being up 20 points in the first half and losing by 20.

   “We prided ourselves on never being intimidated,” said Harrison, now the head coach at Summer Creek. “Jalen Hurts intimidated us.”

   He remembers looking out on the field the following year during warmups and noticing his players all talking about how good Jalen looked.

   “I knew then we were in trouble,” he said.

   Mostly, though, these calls to Averion Hurts Sr. have been to tell him how happy they are that his son will be playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

   Not because he’s a great football player, although he has been that since his days at Channelview High School, where his dad is still the head coach.

   Rather, they want him to know that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback represents every single thing they talk to their players about.

   “He just did it right,” Kevin Flanigan said. “He’s just done everything that way. It’s a tribute to him and to his parents. His dad is a special man, too.”

   Flanigan is athletics director of the Tomball Independent School District, but in 2014 and 2015, when Jalen Hurts was one of the best high school players in the country, he was the head coach at Beaumont West Brook.

   “Did you see Jalen after the NFC Championship Game,” Flanigan asked. “They had him up on that stage, and it was just very indicative of everything I’ve ever seen when they got him up there and wanted to talk about his performance.

   “And the first thing he said was, `It’s not about me, it’s about these fans, these players, this city.’ He just keeps deflecting. You can hardly get him to talk about himself. It’s really refreshing to see that.”

   Super Bowl 57 features two former Texas high school stars, Patrick Mahomes of Whitehouse (and Texas Tech) and Hurts of Channelview (and Alabama and Oklahoma).

   Where Mahomes has already won a Super Bowl and has dozens of television endorsements and a $ 450-million contract, Hurts is three years younger (24) and still establishing himself in the NFL.

   He became a household name among college football fans for his days at Alabama and OU.

   To Houston area coaches, two things have defined him. One is how he handled his benching by Nick Saban at halftime of the 2017 National Championship Game.

   His dad said Jalen went back to his hotel room and cried that night. But what fans saw was a kid cheering like crazy for his teammates and his replacement, Tua Tagovailoa.

   Even though he was hurt deeply, he handled it in a way that left a deep impression on millions of people watching on television, especially back home in Houston.

   “You could see on his face that he was truly excited for his team,” Flanigan said. “I don’t think he can fake that. He’s exemplary of what you want in a teammate, and it’s great to see that he’s been rewarded on the biggest stage.”

   Added Jeff Mathews, former head coach at Vidor: “If you’ve ever met his dad, you’d see where he gets it from. His dad’s the same type of man.”

   And this from North Shore’s Jon Kay, a four-time state champion: “His parents are great people, his brother’s a great person, his sister’s a great person, and it’s just a great family from top to bottom.”

   And from Hancock: “We all got to witness a great person up close, and a great ballplayer too. The road was not always easy for Jalen. Character, skill, and a winner. Never answered the critics or the criticism. Just let his play on the field do the talking.”

   Coaches also mention how after Jalen quit the Channelview basketball and baseball teams to focus on football, his dad convinced him to join the powerlifting team.

   “He needed something to compete in on Saturday,” Averion Hurts Sr. said.

   That powerlifting also added to his greatness in creating a physical, bruising runner.

   “The power of his running was something I don’t know that he got enough credit for early on,” Kay said. “He runs like frickin’ Larry Csonka though he looks light on his feet. People throw around the term `dual-threat quarterback,’ and to me, he’s really one of the few that I saw that could do both at the high end.”

   “I just remember truly not knowing how to defend a guy that could run with power, could run with speed, and had such touch and accuracy throwing the ball. He runs so effortlessly that you fall into the trap of thinking he’s not that fast. But you don’t see anybody catch him.”

   Flanigan added: “It’s tough to get kids to commit, especially quarterbacks, to that level of lifting like he did. But again, that’s the difference in being good and being great. He just did everything right.”

   Averion Hurts Sr. says he’s “humbled” by the wonderful things people have said about his family and his son.

  “His journey prepared him for now,” Averion Sr. said. “We’ve always felt that God had a plan for him, and God had his hands on it. It made him a stronger man on earth.”

   He did not play Jalen regularly until his junior year, giving him time to grasp the entirety of the game and the position. During those junior and senior seasons, Averion Sr. said it was the only time in his long career that he entered a game knowing he had the best player on the field.

   “You’ve seen kids that do it right, and kids that don’t listen,” Averion Hurts Sr. said. “It doesn’t work out as well for them. You understand it’s a demanding deal.”

   Jalen had been groomed by his father and also by watching his older brother, Averion Jr., now the quarterbacks coach at Summer Creek, play the position before him.

   “His dad did a tremendous job of keeping him humble,” Harrison said of Jalen. “He didn’t play him too early. He just kind of waited ‘til Jalen was ready to go in and put them in position to be successful. He has taken it and ran with it, man. The way he handled that stuff at Alabama. He’s the true definition of a high-character kid with an amazing work ethic and a lot of confidence in his ability.”

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